[Air-l] Request on studies about digital literacy and telecenters

Dr. T. Michael Roberts dr_haqiqah at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 9 13:23:50 PST 2007

I teach writing on WebCT to a population of mostly
at-risk African-American and Latino students community
college students. Many of them speak and write English
as a second language. Many of them feel that they are
not good in school and would rather not be in school
but also feel that, without more education, they will
be forever stuck in dead-in jobs making less than they
need to live in comfort. 

I have them collaborate heavily in the online forums.
I tell them that, in an ideal world, I would have five
students per class and would walk each of them
individually through the composition process from
initial brainstorming through first draft and revision
to the final draft. I have twenty five students per
class so they have to do much of this work as peer
collaboration with my guidance. 

I talk a great deal about e-mail threads in the forums
as being a hybrid form of conversation that leave
written traces behind in the form of the individual
posts as the conversation unfolds. I encourage them to
construct their essays by cutting and pasting their
forum posts into a Word document to get “stuff” that
can then be shaped into something more formal. 

Students often respond in turn to my responses and the
responses of their peers to their posts in ways that
further develop the themes in those original posts. I
very consciously try to work with students in their
ZPG (Zone of Proximal Development) by asking question
designed to encourage them to further articulate their
own previous discourse. 

Once I model this “not-knowing” approach, others pick
it up very rapidly and learn that you do not have to
give someone the answer to their dilemma to be helpful
but only witness that dilemma in an accepting way and
ask questions about the dilemma that will keep the
conversation about their lives and concerns going. 

I call this approach “writing in order to read” and
talk about how a good question can create a space
horizoned by that question that is a place for the
person being questioned to fill up with an expanded
discourse still firmly rooted in his or her genuine
concerns as previously expressed. 

By brainstorming through e-mail threads which are
written but like conversation in the sense that the
audience talks back, students learn audience analysis
and how to further articulate their point of view in
response to feedback from their audience. This is a
much more social and collaborative approach to writing
than what most are used to and students who started
out not enjoying writing and taking my course only
because they can not graduate without it often become
very active in the forums, make “A”s to their own
astonishment. I think it is the collaborative and
social aspect of this approach that appeals to these
students. Many of them are only taking distance
classes because their schedules are made so hectic by
jobs and families and come into the class a little
technophobic and wary of the process. 

I do not assign specific topics but only tell them
that they must demonstrate competence in several
different patterns of essay development, for example,
illustration by example and comparison/contrast. Many
of them choose to write about whatever dilemmas and
difficulties they are experiencing in their lives.
They are much more self-disclosing online than they
would be live and some seem to profit greatly from
telling their stories and having these stories
witnessed by a group of peers.

I emphasize that getting the story of what is going on
in your life down in writing is a form of
consciousness raising that makes it easier to see what
is going on clearly and to respond adequately. This is
especially true when seeing a pattern of behavior
clearly for the first time once it has been captured
in a written description of “how thing happen in your
world” makes it possible to change that pattern of
behavior in positive ways. 

Students routinely collaborate to help one another
come to see their life situations more clearly and
plan out strategies for getting from where they are to
where they would like to be. This approach lessens the
gap between school and the world where students live
by making school a place they can talk together about
whatever difficulties they are having in life.
T. Michael

--- Dani Matielo <dacamat at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear AOIRers,,
> I am a researcher from the Laboratory for Digital
> Inclusion and
> Community Learning, from School of the Future, in
> Brazil, and I am
> currently focusing my research on digital literacy
> and how online
> competences develop among telecentre beginner users.
> I would be extremely grateful if anyone could point
> me to some study,
> preferably qualitative but also quantitative,
> regarding this theme, or
> also some study about digital competences and low
> income population. I
> have read some theoretical work about it, but
> couldn't find yet
> empirical data or descriptions of experiences.
> Thank you in advance for your help,
> Daniela Matielo
> -- 
> Dani Matielo
> dacamat at gmail.com
> dde_carvalho at uoc.edu
> dani at futuro.usp.br
> http://digitaloging.blogspot.com/
> "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones
> who are mad to
> live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of
> everything at the same
> time, the ones who never yawn or say an
> uncommon-place thing, but
> burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman
> candles." ~ Jack Kerouac
> _______________________________________________
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